SG Blog: A Tale of Three Games12 Sep 2017 0
There's something potentially exciting happening in strategy gaming. Yesterday, we brought you a preview of the Early Access of Longsword: Table-Top Tactics. It's developer, Zero Sum Games, wants to create a fully digital table-top miniatures platform, with turn-based/hex combat fuelled by cards and digitally enhanced mechanics. I spoke to developer Daniel DiCicco back in June during his ill-fated Kickstater, and was impressed by the drive and the vision he had for a truly digital miniatures experience.
Longsword is only the latest title to be trying to do something interesting in this space though. Red Unit Studios' Warbands: Bushido is offering a more focused experience, creating a skirmish wargame based around around small group of Japanese-themed miniatures in ability driven combat. It has a wonderful aesthetic, with the minis themselves being expertly detailed with simple animations. The gameplay is quick, but allows for a lot of tactical depth, and the way the units slide and jump across the hex-map gives it a really immersive table-top vibe. Nick, a writer from Pocket Tactics, was also very impressed by what the team had done:
The thing that stands out to me the most about Warbands: Bushido is not the gameplay—lots of games offer an opportunity to bring sound strategy and tactical gameplay to bear against an opponent—but the second area of promise, the game's aesthetic. Red Unit Studios has done a great job recreating the look of a tabletop war game in digital form. The miniatures, dice, and diorama-style combat maps could all be straight out of a war game box. A cool touch is the ability to colour and customise your units, no magnifying glass required.
Warbands has been in Early Access since November 2016, but if this post is to be believed, it could be fully releasing very soon. Our own preview was done back in January, so there's half-a-year or more's worth of updates to catch up on, as well as the new Scenarios. You can be sure we'll bring you a full review as soon as we can.
Last but certainly not least, we have Wartile. This is turning the idea of table-top miniatures game on its head by making it a real-time affair, as opposed to turn-based. As I said in my own preview, at the moment it ends up being a bit more interesting in theory rather than in practice, but that's mainly down to balancing things like hit-chances, unit mobility and so own. The RNG especially seemed quite bad when I played it earlier in the year:
I'm glad Wartile exists. I've definitely enjoyed my time with it so far, and I definitely want to keep at it a while longer to master it's own special brand of strategy. Having said that, it very much remains to be seen if this “real-time miniatures” thing will work in the long-term. So far it's proven a lot of fun in multiplayer but I can see that mode taking a rather specific route, much like how competitive level Starcraft, Command & Conquer et al became very different games versus the solo/casual play style. As for the rest of it, my only real concern is the RNG – there is already a harder difficulty mode implemented to provide people with a real challenge, but for the rest of us who just want to have some fun with miniatures, perhaps it could be a tad more forgiving.
Wartile's experiment is a bold one, and it's still very much a "watch-and-wait" scenario to see if it really works. Rumour has it the game has, unfortunately, not being selling that well, but perhaps the recent 0.6 update will give it a new breath of life.
Between these three projects though, there's a potential for digital table-top-esque strategy games to really take off. Hearthstone, for all it's faults and unwieldiness, is a fascinating example of how the realities of software can enhance mechanics & combo driven experiences like card games. Wargames and strategy games alike are starting to benefit more and more from digital aids and companion apps, but a fully digital table-top game could be something very special indeed. I, for one, will be watching this space!